You are the centre of this small home.


Inside the shop I can look out into the summer. Outside the shop, two brothers quarrel in it, next to their car and holding icecreams. Their father ignores them; he is balancing keys, gelati, a bicycle pump and a bag of apples.

I am thinking about Max.

I am asked for books on Australian mammals and books for a nephew of extraordinary intelligence. Books for a step daughter who loves horses and also earrings. A copy of The Hotel Albatross by Debra Adelaide. Books about Vikings or Bart Cummings.

But I am thinking about Max.

You sleep so much, you hum and murmur and so rarely cry. The Aunts shoulder in, possessive. The grandmothers ring and ask the same questions. Your mother is sleepy, she bends over you, attentive, solicitous and when you move, any small movement, she is melted, she is yours.

I have spare time to read but I do not seem to be reading. I always hold you, when it is my turn, so that you can look at all the books on the shelves. There are acres of shelves, the Penguins, the Vintages, the Viragos, the Barnes and Noble, the Easton Press, the Herons, the Really Goods and the Nexts, all jumbled and stacked. Also Dr Seuss. You examine everything politely.

There is always somebody hovering over your crib limp with admiration. We cannot stop looking at your knees because you do not have any and we contort ourselves to be within your eyesight so we can cry triumphant that he looked at me!

Nanna say this is nonsense; he does not look at anybody at all, not yet. One grandfather proclaims: ….a great grandson….look at that!

You are full of milk. You are warm and round, your endless quest to live is constantly rewarded.

The Aunts discuss milk and feeding and weighing in. They discuss ear lobes and milk and a hair brush for babies. They discuss milk. They are in the orchard picking mulberries but they must rush back in case you need them. But you sleep on, uninterested; they are disappointed, they have pink hands and pink mouths and they refuse to return to the orchard.

You scream one day for more milk and the great grandparents say: he’s a one!

The visiting midwife arrives exhausted in the heat and sets up the scales and the charts and the baby book with an important pen. You urinate all over everything and your mother beams with pride. The midwife has seen a thousand babies and says: well, well, well!

Your Uncle, soon to be a parent himself, holds you astonished…he says: my God…

I was outside on the veranda nursing you so your mother could pick mulberries. It is warm. I am singing some nonsense song to you; I am thinking that I ought to water the garden. When I look down, your eyes are fastened on mine. The garden does not matter anymore.

In the shop I reorganise the Dr Seuss books again. Ricky comes back for her ancient histories and anything in Latin and she buys bookmarks for her granddaughters who have recently lost a pony and are inconsolable.

Robert is anxious because there are so many books he still wants. He is pleased with me for having a grandson. He tells me that libraries these days are no use at all and that the one where he lives hides all the good books so he can’t read them.

John drops in, furious because somebody borrowed his Peter Temple books and did not return them.

I say: look at this picture of Max!

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